If you are prosecuted on a drug charge in an NYC federal court, you will face a far harsher system than someone dealing with New York state drug charges. Unlike in New York state court system, federal prosecutors generally do not offer to dismiss a case or agree to a misdemeanor plea in exchange for completing a drug treatment program.
Especially prior to 2005, federal judges were also strictly bound by the Sentencing Guidelines, and did not have the discretion to substitute treatment programs and other sentences aimed primarily at treatment for the prescribed prison terms.
However, in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sentencing Guidelines were not mandatory – rather, they were exactly what it says on the label: guidelines. This has enabled federal judges to work out the sentence in each case individually, using the factors set forth by statute. Statutory factors to be weighed during sentencing include the defendant’s personal and criminal history, his character, as well as any medical diagnoses or other need for treatment.
Many federal judges have responded to this new leeway by tailoring their sentenced for drug offenders in a way intended to address any needs for treatment. In New York City, the Eastern District court has implemented two programs aimed at rehabilitating drug offenders. The programs include aspects such as treatment, educational programs, and job placement. One of the programs is a pre-trial program and participants tend to be identified and referred early during the pre-trial stage; the other program is for those who have already been convicted and are on probation or supervised release.
Participation in the programs is voluntary for eligible defendants. Participating in such a program can be advantageous in certain circumstances, while inadvisable in others. If you have been charged with a federal drug offense in NYC, you should retain an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, who will be able to advise you as to all the available options and obtain the best possible result in your case. Call our experienced New York City federal criminal defense attorneys at (212)577-6677 for an immediate consultation.